Goodwill Is Beyond Traditional Role

November 7, 2003
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MUSKEGON — Goodwill Industries of West Michigan Inc. says it has a place for workers to learn.

The agency says it can help individuals who are in a state of transition to acquire a new job skill, or can serve a small business that needs to train a few workers on using software recently installed at the office.

The recent $3 million renovation at the nonprofit organization’s Muskegon headquarters included the expansion of a computer-training center that provides lessons in numerous software applications and computer skills.

The Family Learning Center fits with Goodwill Industries’ mission of providing job training and work for people with obstacles to employment, such as a physical disability.

But with its expansion complete, Goodwill Industries stresses that it has opened up the center to businesses needing a place to receive and hold customized computer training classes for employees.

“It helps people to work. That’s what we’re all about,” said Liz Witzler, marketing director for Goodwill.

About 140 people have used the Family Learning Center so far this year.

Lyn Wilson Berry, skills instructor, explained that most of the students were injured workers who were unable to return to their old jobs and needed to learn a new skill before re-entering the workplace.

The Family Learning Center — housed in Goodwill Industries’ headquarters on Apple Avenue a few blocks from downtown Muskegon — is capable of hosting individuals and small groups for entry-level instruction.

The organization has promoted the center to the business community only on a limited basis, though the firm at times has served as an HR processing station for major corporations seeking to bring on large numbers of workers.

One of Goodwill’s regular clients before the recession was Muskegon’s Sappi Fine Paper mill.

Berry said Goodwill Industries plans to step up promotion and increase the number of people and businesses using the facility.

The center, she added, has the potential to significantly grow the number of people who annually receive computer training at Goodwill Industries.

“It certainly is on our agenda to do that,” she said.

“And we certainly have the resources to do a lot more.”

Beyond basic computer skills, the Family Learning Center offers one-on-one, self-directed and group instruction in several Microsoft applications that are used in most offices: Office Pro, Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook and FrontPage, as well as training in the Internet, e-mail and Web design.

Those applications are commonplace for many people in today’s office environment, said Correy Agard, a case manager for Goodwill Industries.

But she explained that workers who have spent years in other occupations may know nothing of the applications because such software — or even PCs — was not part of their previous jobs.

She said Goodwill Industries works to provide those skills needed for those who seek a new line of work — whether through desire or need — in the information age.

“They never had to learn this,” Agard explained.

“Experience is the best trainer, so we’re giving them the experience they need for a new position.”    

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